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Monday, April 23, 2012

What To Do When The Weather Turns Bad In The Open Water

Conditions do not always cooperate when open water swims are held. This places a huge amount of pressure on the race directors, safety personnel and volunteers.

When rains, winds, waves, marine life, thunder and lightning invade the venue and corrupt the competition, open water swimming becomes roughwater swimming and swimmers face Mother Nature.

But race directors have to make decisions all based on the safety and well-being of the participants. This weekend's Swim Miami presented by Nike ran headlong into a storm system in southern Florida. This is what was considered and decided by race director Jonathan Strauss:

Daily News: When did you know that the weather would not cooperate?
Strauss: We knew the forecast the entire week before the event. The forecast for the weekend was terrible. The day before, towards the end of the day, it cleared up a bit, but then storm clouds started to come so we knew we were going to have problems.

Daily News: Who was part of this decision-making process?
Strauss: Our safety team. In terms of rain, we were not going to cancel and all of our safety staff was paid until 2 pm so we knew could wait out the rain. We had 8 ocean rescue guards on paddle boards, 3 additional lifeguards and our 8 safety boat crew members - who were all experienced sailors - and 2 safety coordinators, one responsible for onshore and one responsible for offshore, all had input. We discussed the possibility of cancellation and other options.

Daily News: What happened on race day?
Strauss: I arrived at the venue at 6 am. It was a downpour so there was no one we could we set up the course. No way. We waited until 7:15 am and suddenly there was a window of opportunity where we could set the course up.

Daily News: What unexpected things happened?
Strauss: The currents and tides had shifted. Our original plans, based on safety, were designed so the swimmers could swim with the tides. We wanted the currents to help get the beginners to the finish faster. But everything that morning was all backwards. The winds were strong, causing the water on the top surface to move fast. It was moving so fast like a flume, so we had to modify the 800-meter course. As a result, we changed the course to a modified 300-meter triangle course. This new course was easy to monitor and the swim was safe within those new confines.

Daily News: When did you make the final decision to postpone and modify the races?
Strauss: We made our announcements right away. With everything originally designed safely for those newcomers and less experienced swimmers, we made some quick decisions. We knew a bad storm system was coming so at 7:30 am, we announced the race was officially going to be postponed. None of the lifeguards on paddle boards had wetsuits and we knew there were 15-20 swimmers who would have taken 3-4 hours in the 10K course due to the heavy winds. I thought the lifeguards on paddle boards could not handle [the rain and wind without wetsuits] for 4 hours, so we decided to modify the 10K to a 5K course. We also know the conditions would deteriorate later in the day so it was an easy decision. So we left that initial safety meeting and decided to modify everything which we announced. In the break in the rainfall, we set the four corners of the course even though the winds were still up.

The 10K swimmers were informed that their race would now be a 5K, but then thunderstorms started at 8:30 am. Because we are required to stay out of the water for a minimum of 30 minutes after the last lightening, we knew the race would not start until at least 9 am. But at least the course was set up. But at 9 am, another lightening hit which meant we had to delay until 9:30 am.

At that point, we decided that everyone [in the 5K and 10K races] will swim a mile. Everyone would be awarded in the mile race as if they were swimming in their original race (1 mile, 5K or 10K) in a modified course. I knew the most elite swimmers could have possibly made it, but we also had a lot of first-timers who would have had a hard time under these conditions. So we decided to make those announcements. When we made that decision, you could tell there were many who showed a sign a relief. We knew people wanted to still swim because they had trained and traveled to attend the race.

Daily News: And the final outcome?
Strauss: The 800-meter race started and finished. Then the 1-mile race started and the entire event was finished by 10:30 am when another rainstorm hit. Everyone seems very happy and I was happy because it was not as big of a risk with the modified shorter courses. We didn't face complaints from the swimmers and received compliments how we handled the situation.

Safe and sound. Splendid. Photo shows race director Jonathan Strauss with his father and previous race director Robert Strauss.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

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